After preferred coaching candidate Byron Leftwich opted to return to Tampa Bay to oversee an offense that no longer includes Tom Brady over concerns about working with Jacksonville general manager Trent Baalke, the Jaguars turned back to the first candidate they interviewed to take over as head coach and gave him the job.
Patience paid off for Doug Pederson as he was hired as the new head coach of the Jaguars after first interviewing for the job with team owner Shad Khan and Baalke more than a month ago in late December. Pederson, who led the Philadelphia Eagles franchise to its first Super Bowl title during the 2017 season got a second interview Tuesday and was hired late Thursday night, per the Florida Times-Union.
“Doug Pederson four years ago won a Super Bowl as head coach of a franchise in pursuit of its first world championship,” Khan said. “I hope Doug can replicate that magic here in Jacksonville, but what is certain is his proven leadership and experience as a winning head coach in the National Football League. It’s exactly what our players deserve. Nothing less. Combine this with his acumen on the offensive side of the ball, and you have why I am proud to name Doug Pederson the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.”
A former college quarterback who spent most of his 13-season playing career in the NFL as a backup to Brett Favre on the Green Bay Packers, Pederson takes over for Urban Meyer, who was fired before Jacksonville completed its 3-14 season. Pederson will have his work cut out for him in trying to turn around a Jaguars team that has dropped 35 of its last 41 games and boasts a league-high 10 losing seasons in the last 11 years.
The No. 1 job for 54-year-old Pederson will be getting the most out of 2021 No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence, who finished his rookie campaign with 12 touchdown passes, a league-leading 17 interceptions, five fumbles and a passer rating (71.9) that was second-worst in the NFL ahead of only New York Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson.
Pederson, who was 51-34-1 in Philly (including 4-2 in the postseason) and made the playoffs three times in five seasons but went 4-11-1 in his final year before being fired, did work wonders with Carson Wentz — before he didn’t. Just two years removed from winning a Super Bowl with Nick Foles filling in for an injured Wentz, the Eagles ranked 26th in scoring (20.9 points a game) and 28th in passing (207.9 yards a game) in Pederson’s final season in Philadelphia. There were many reasons for the implosion, but one of them was certainly the relationship between Pederson and Wentz, who is the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts … for now.
Now holding onto his starting job in Indy by a thread, Wentz had the best stretch of his career under Pederson in 2017 from Weeks 1-14 before suffering a season-ending injury. In those 14 games, which earned the second-year signal-caller Second-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, Wentz led the league in passing TDs (33), had the fourth-highest passer rating (101.9) and threw for the NFL’s 10th-most passing yards (3,296). In other words, Wentz had almost triple the number of passing touchdowns in 14 games as a sophomore that Lawrence had in 17 games as a rookie.
For the Jaguars, who have the No. 1 pick in April’s draft and should have about $70 million in salary cap space after ranking last in the league in scoring (14.9 points a game) and 27th in yards (305.4 a game), there really isn’t anywhere to go but up and Pederson, visor and all, should be a vast improvement on the messy dumpster fire that was Meyer.
“What Pederson brings to the Jaguars is that he’s the antithesis of Meyer. Pederson won’t enter the building as a wannabe dictator foisting offseason Oklahoma drills onto a roster of antagonized players,” per The Athletic Eagles writer Bo Wulf. “Replacing Meyer is not unlike when Pederson replaced Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Sometimes, it’s enough just to be an adult in the room. Pederson is a quarterback specialist. He played the position in the league and cut his teeth as a coach by working with quarterbacks. That’s not to say he’ll definitely turn Lawrence into a star, but he knows what he’s doing.”
We’ll see about that — potentially twice next season against the Colts and Wentz (if he can hold onto his starting job).